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IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Famous title comes to consoles.

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Old 07-26-2010, 06:00 PM
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bobbysocks bobbysocks is offline
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Robert S. Johnson survived an awful beating one day in June, 1943, when a Luftwaffe pilot shot up his helpless (but very rugged) P-47 Thunderbolt.
If that German pilot ever knew whom he hadn't killed, he surely lived to regret it. Bob Johnson would go on to score 27 aerial victories in his time with the 56th Ftr. Grp., one of the top scoring groups in the ETO, under its great leader, Col. Hub Zemke. The top two aces of the 8th AF, Johnson and Gabby Gabreski, both flew P-47s with "Zemke's Wolfpack."

On April 17th, the 56th was scheduled for a "rodeo" (fighter sweep) over Walcheren, a large Dutch island; German opposition was questionable. Just like in the movies, they synchronized watches at 10:01. Despite his excitement at his first combat mission, Johnson was determined to stay in formation, as ordered. His crew chief, Pappy Gould, had tuned the engine perfectly, and even sanded and waxed the Thunderbolt's aluminum skin, to lessen air resistance and add a few MPH that might make the difference. Everything went perfectly: run-up, take-off, climb to 31,000 foot altitude, the formation flying over the target. Except for one minor detail - the Germans neglected to show up. Johnson's long-awaited first combat mission was a non-event. After all the preparation and hype, he "felt like an idiot".
Later that month, he and several other pilots who had not completed the fighter pilot's gunnery requirement, went to Goxhill (a miserable place, full of coal dust) for gunnery instruction. They practiced shooting at a towed target sleeve, but he never "got the hang of it," achieving a high score (against the sleeve) of 4.5%, below the requirement of 5%. Thus, the second highest scoring ace of the ETO never actually qualified as a fighter pilot! (And the top ace, Gabreski, had almost washed out of flight training in 1941.)

The days and missions passed, but Johnson didn't see any Germans for a while.

But on May 14th, he received his baptism of fire, a "ramrod" (bomber escort) over Antwerp, which the Germans usually defended. Three 16-plane squadrons of the 56th went up that day, to help shepherd a force of about thirty B-17s. As they flew over the Dutch coast, heavy flak opened up, ripping into the bombers flying at lower altitude. Hub Zemke, leading the flight, plunged after some bandits, with Johnson and the other two members of the flight "glued to his tail." Eight more German planes came after Zemke's flight, and the four Thunderbolts turned to meet them head on. The antagonists flashed by each other, firing, and Johnson's guns stuck in the 'ON' position despite his repeated flicking of the arming switch. As he hammered on the trigger and switches, trying to shut off his guns, two Focke-Wulfs passed through his bullet stream and were damaged. When Johnson finally got his guns off, he was alone. He had been constantly warned against this exact predicament, a novice pilot alone and at low altitude to boot.
Looking for friendly aircraft, he spotted eight blunt-nosed fighters and sped towards them, in hopes of joining up. His recognition skills needed work, because they were FW-190s. he firewalled the throttle and headed the other way. Keeping maximum speed all the way across the Channel, he gratefully landed, only to have Hub Zemke chew him out for undisciplined flying. It hadn't been Johnson's intention, but this mission began his reputation in the Group as a 'wild flier.'

June 26, 1943 mission details:
Early in the morning forty-eight Thunderbolts took off from the advanced base at Manston. Having previously been criticized for going off on his own, this morning Johnson resolved to stay in formation. The three squadrons of the 56th Fighter Group were all up: the 61st (Johnson's), 62nd, and 63rd. Before the mission, Johnson felt the cold fear that he always felt, and which he was able to channel into higher alertness. They flew up, over the Channel, into France, and soon spotted sixteen Fw-190s. Before Johnson could communicate or coordinate with his flight, he was hit. 20mm cannon shells ripped through his plane, smashing the canopy, punching holes in the plane, and inspiring in Johnson an overwhelming urge to bail out. More explosions smashed the plane, and Johnson's frantic "Mayday!" calls drew no response. Fire began to envelope the cockpit.

The Thunderbolt spun crazily out of his control and the twisted and jammed canopy frame resisted his repeated, superhuman, full-body efforts to open it. As he struggled vainly with the canopy, the engine fire miraculously went out, but he could hardly see, as oil spewed back from the battered engine. He tried to squeeze out through the broken glass of the canopy, but the opening was just too small for both him and his chute. Trapped inside the P-47, he next decided to try to crash-land and evade. He turned the plane south, toward Spain - the recommended evasion route. After struggling with hypoxia and hallucinations(?), his thoughts came back into focus and he realized that the aircraft was still flying fairly well. He headed back for England, counting on his high altitude to help him make a long, partially-powered glide back home.

The instrument panel was shattered. The wind constantly blew more oil and hydraulic fluid into his cut up face and eyes. He had neglected to wear his goggles that morning, and any attempt to rub his eyes burned worse than ever. He and his plane were horribly shot up, but incredibly he was still alive. He made for the Channel, desperate to escape the heavily defended enemy territory.

Swiveling constantly, he froze in horror as he spotted a plane approaching him, an Fw-190, beautifully painted in blue with a yellow cowling. Johnson was totally helpless, and just had to wait for the German to get him in his sights and open up. The German closed in, taking his time with the crippled American fighter. Johnson hunched down behind his armor-plated seat, to await the inevitable. The German opened up, spraying the plane with 30-caliber machine gun fire, not missing, just pouring lead into the battered Thunderbolt. Johnson kicked his rudder left and right, slowing his plane to a crawl, and fired back as the German sped out in front of him.

The Focke-Wulf easily avoided the gunfire from the half-blinded Johnson, and circled back, this time pulling level with him. The pilot examined the shattered Thunderbolt all over, looking it up and down, and shook his head in mystification. He banked, pulled up behind Johnson again, and opened up with another burst. Somehow the rugged Republic-built aircraft stayed in the air. The German pulled alongside again, as they approached the southern coast of the Channel. Still flying, Johnson realized how fortunate it was that the German found him after his heavy 20mm cannons were empty.

As they went out over the Channel, the German get behind and opened up again, but the P-47 kept flying. Then he pulled up alongside, rocked his wings in salute, and flew off, before they reached the English coast. Johnson had survived the incredible, point-blank machine gun fire, but still had to land the plane. He contacted Mayday Control by radio, who instructed him to climb if he can. The battered plane climbed, and after more communication, headed for his base at Manston. Landing was touch and go, as he had no idea if the landing gear would work. The wheels dropped down and locked and he landed safely.

Egon Mayer
Johnsonn's opponent that day was the Luftwaffe Ace Egon Mayer: his rank was Oberstleutnant (Lt.Col). My friend, Diego Zampini, supplied the following details on Mayer:
He started to score victories in June 1940 (during the French campaign) with the famous JG 2 "Richthofen," and participated in the Battle of Britain, scoring several kills but being also downed four times. In July 1941 his tally increased to 20, and during only 21 days in the summer of 1942 he shot down 16 British fighters, being promoted to Gruppenkommandeur of III/JG 2. He was a Major when he met Robert Johnson’s P-47 on June 26 1943 and damaged it very seriously (Mayer at that flew time a Fw 190A-5). On this day the 61st and 56th FG were flying escort for 250 B-17s against Villacoublay airfield, being intercepted by Mayer’s unit, which shot down three B-17s of the 384th BG in head-on attacks. About that time when Mayer and Georg-Peter Eder created the deadly head-on attacks against the B-17s. On September 16 1943, the recently promoted Oberstleutnant Egon Mayer (now Kommodore of JG 2) shot down three Flying Fortresses in less than 20 minutes. He achieved his 100th kill in February 1944, but he was shot down and killed by a Thunderbolt on March 2 1944 over France while he was trying to attack an Allied bomber. Mayer was only 27 years old. (Source: Microsoft Flight Combat Simulator: in the section "Luftwaffe Aces.").
Not long before he passed away in December, 1998, Robert S. Johnson was interviewed by Colin D. Heaton, of Military History magazine. Excerpts of that interview follow:

Military History: Tell us about some of the types of missions that the 56th Fighter Group performed.

Johnson: We started flying bomber escort. The first missions were just flights over the coastline into France to get a feel for the terrain and the enemy-controlled area. We occasionally met the enemy over the North Sea, and sometimes they came over to visit us. They would strafe the fields and that type of thing. As time went on, we pushed them back from the coastline, but that comes later in the story. That was where I received my combat and aerial gunnery training, against the best the Germans had.

MH: That's true, you were flying against Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG.2) and JG.26 a lot--and they were definitely a sharp group of pilots.

Johnson: Yes, that's correct. They were at Abbeville and along the coast, right across from us.

MH: I understand that Oberstleutnant Hans Philipp, leader of JG.1, was one of your victories?

Johnson: That was on October 8, 1943. My wingman and I had become separated, as sometimes happens in combat. We were trying to find some friendly airplanes to fly home with. I had just shot down a Messerschmitt Bf-110, which was my fourth kill. As I pulled up from that dive I saw four FW-190s attacking the bombers. I rolled over until I was upside down so I could watch them, as they were some 5,000 feet below me. I was inverted and continued my dive, shooting while pushing the nose forward to give the necessary lead for my bullets to intercept one of the planes. I was shooting at the leader, and his number three or four man pulled his nose up, shooting at me as I was coming down. I continued the attack, and just as I hit the leader, knocking him down, I felt a thump in my airplane. How badly I was hit I didn't know, as I was very busy. I leveled out after that, and I found out 50 years later that my fifth victory was Hans Philipp, a 206-victory ace from the Russian Front. I pulled up right in the path of a group of Bf-110s and FW-190s coming in behind the four I had engaged. I immediately threw the stick left and dropped the nose. Nothing happened when I hit left rudder, and then I knew that my rudder cable was shot away. I had no rudder control at all, only trim tabs.

MH: What went through your mind at that time?

Johnson: Well, the main thing was to get clear of that cluster of enemy fighters. I dived away with the throttle wide open, and I saw some friendly P-47s and joined up with them. My first thought was to bail out, but I pulled up alongside them and found I could still fly, even with 35 feet of rudder cable piled up in the cockpit. Those planes were from the 62nd Squadron, part of our group. They said, "Sure, come aboard." Ralph Johnson turned out to be leading the flight. I still had the throttle wide open, and he said, "Jesus Christ, Johnson, cut it back!" I was running away from them. Well, I chopped the throttle back and we returned to England, landing at Boxted, which was the first base we came to. Ironically, we were later stationed there as a group. There was one little opening in the clouds below, and I saw there were some runways. At the time, we had a bomber and a Piper Cub*type airplane ahead of us, and we let them land first. They said, "Bob, since you're banged up, you go in first." I told them: "No, I have plenty of fuel, and if I mess it up none of you could get in. I'll just stay up here and come in last." They all landed and got out of the way. I came in a little hot, but I still had aileron control--no problem there. I came in, touched the wheels first, then the tail wheel dropped. I had to hold the left rudder cable in my hand so that I could get to my brakes. The minute I touched down I was pulling on the cable, using the brakes, and was able to stop. I pulled off the runway in case anyone had to come in behind me. I climbed out and walked the entire perimeter of that base; I could not see due to the foggy weather. I later found the other guys at the control tower, waiting on me. The next morning we looked at the airplane, which was only 50 yards from the tower, but I had walked in the opposite direction for about 2.5 miles to get to that point. We had some guys come over and put a new rudder cable in.

MH: Tell us about some of your most memorable combat missions.

Johnson: Well, four P-47 groups pushed the Germans back from the French and Dutch coasts to about a north-south line from Kiel to Hanover. They knew what our range was because they had captured a couple of P-47s and they knew it was a big gas eater. They set their defensive line at the limit of our operational range, where we had to turn back. On March 6, however, we had one of the biggest aerial battles right over Dümmer Lake. They attacked the bombers, and about 69 of the heavies were shot down. I had eight guys to protect the bombers against about 150 German fighters, so we were not very effective at that time. We were split into groups A and B, spreading ourselves thin since the Germans had not come up to fight. They showed up then on March 6, 8 and 15, and I was on all three missions. I was in Group B on March 8 and Group A on the other days, which was right up in front. I was the lead plane on those occasions. We lost 34 bombers on March 8, and on the 15th I was the lead plane moving north trying to find the Germans. Well, I found them. There were three groups of Germans with about 50 planes per group, and the eight of us went right into them head on. Two groups were level, coming horizontally, and the third was up high as top cover. We went in, since we had no choice, and fired line abreast. That stalled them a little bit. I was pushing every button I could find on my radio, including SOS. I gave the location where I found the Germans and what they were. In just a matter of minutes we had scores of planes--P-47s, North American P-51s and Lockheed P-38s. It was a big turmoil, but we lost only one bomber that day, due to flak. Usually when we could find no Germans in the air on the way home, we would drop down near the treetops and strafe anything of military value--airfields, marshaling yards, trains, boats, anything like that. Later, the Ninth Air Force took that up as they pushed ahead of our ground forces.

MH: I know that ground attack was not considered a choice assignment.

Johnson: I think that is another good reason why I'm still alive. An awful lot of guys who flew aerial combat with me ended up either as POWs or badly shot up doing that kind of business. Also, after my first victory I had a reputation as a sort of a wild man, and other pilots would say, "Don't fly with Johnson, he'll get you killed." Later they decided to make me a flight leader and then a squadron leader. I felt that even though I was a leader, the other guys were as good as I was, and we decided that if they were in a good firing position, they should have the lead. In our one flight of eight boys we had the four leading aces in Europe. Then we got aggressive, and everyone became competitive. We were competing not only against the guys in our squadron but also against other squadrons. Later, it was our group against other groups, that kind of thing. We had "Gabby" Gabreski, myself, Jerry Johnson, Bud Mahurin and Joe Powers, who was one of our leaders at that time. He was killed in Korea when his engine was hit as he was trying to make it back across Inchon Bay on January 18, 1951. He went down with his plane.

MH: Pilots generally swear by their aircraft. Günther Rall and Erich Hartmann praised the Messerschmitt Bf-109, Erich Rudorffer and Johannes Steinhoff the Me-262, and Buddy Haydon the P-51 Mustang. I have to say after seeing all of the old photos of the various Thunderbolts and others that were shot up, I can't imagine any other plane absorbing that much damage and still flying. What is your opinion of your aircraft?

Johnson: This is very similar to the German debate. As far as the 109, all of the German pilots loved that plane, but the FW-190 was harder to shoot down. Just like the controversy over the P-51 and P-47. The P-47 was faster; it just did not have the climb and range the Mustang did. But it had speed, roll, dive and the necessary ruggedness that allowed it to do such a great job in the Ninth Air Force. As far as aerial kills go, we met and beat the best the Luftwaffe had when we first got there. It was the P-47 groups that pushed them back, as I said before. The P-51s had the advantage of longer range, and they were able to hit even the training schools, hitting boys just learning to fly. As the war dragged on, many of the old German veterans had been killed--so much of the experience was gone. As far as the 109 versus 190 argument, the 109 had the liquid-cooled engine whereas the 190 had an air-cooled radial engine, much like ours. One hit in the cooling system of a Messerschmitt and he was going down. Also, none of the German fighters were as rugged as a P-47. When I was badly shot up on June 26, 1943, I had twenty-one 20mm cannon shells in that airplane, and more than 200 7.92mm machine-gun bullets. One nicked my nose and another entered my right leg, where the bullet split in half. I still have those two little pieces, by the way; they went in just under the skin. I had been hurt worse playing football and boxing. However, I had never been that scared, I'll tell you that. I was always scared--that was what made me move quick. "Hub" Zemke liked the P-51 because it had great range, but he put one in a dive and when he pulled out he ripped the wings off that airplane--that was how he became a POW. Adolf Galland, who was a very good friend of mine and who I had known since 1949, flew the Me-262 and loved it, but he still swore by the 109, although it was still easier to shoot down.

When his combat tours were finished, he returned Stateside, to a hero's welcome, and to PR roles like War Bond tours. Johnson enjoyed these pubilicity jobs, unlike his quiet, reserved friend, Dick Bong, America's "Ace of Aces," who had just come back from the Pacific.
After the war, Johnson went to work for Republic Aircraft, and spent some time in Korea, in a split role as a civilian observer and as a USAF Lieutenant Colonel. He wrote his autobiography in 1958, and later moved to South Carolina, where he ran a successful insurance business. He remained active on the lecture circuit and in military aviation circles under his death in December, 1998.
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Old 07-27-2010, 04:11 PM
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bobbysocks bobbysocks is offline
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found a great site with interviews of soviet flighter jocks...


great stories and pics. here's one to entice you to go there and read.

Sergei Isakovich Nasilevec ( much more of the entire story at the site )

— You came to Stalingrad school in May 1940 and begun to fly straight away?

Yes. There were no U-2s in the school. We began flying UTI.

— How did you like Ishak (Donkey – a nick name earned by I-16 for similar sounding of it’s official name)?

A lot of pilots were killed in flight accidents. It was such a strict plane, that chief of school, when we graduated, said:
— If you mastered I-16, you may fly any other type of airplane. This is a strictest plane of them all. There is no pilot, who can’t land any other aircraft after I-16.

— Did you fly Chaika (Gull - nickname earned by I-153 for it’s gull wing shaped upper wings)?

Yes, it’s almost the same as I-16. You could train on both of them.

— There was no dual-control Chaikas.

No, there weren’t. It was lighter than I-16. I-16 was very strict on landing. It was like a spindle. On I-16 you had to keep your legs in tension all the time…

— In your voenniy bilet it is written that you kept studying till June 1943?

Yes. We wanted to go to the front, but we were not allowed… And we were told:
— You will study new equipment…How many flying hours you had when graduated from school?

About 250 flying hours, no less…

— How you were told about war?

We were graduated that day. There was an order already, we were directed to our new units, received suitcases, two uniforms in them, for daily use and for holidays, sheets for bed, everything really. We were told that we will go to celebrate at Volga shore. We came to Stalingrad, boarded a ferry and crossed the river. Everything was ready there, wind orchestra and dance area, a lot of people came for dances. Then suddenly, it wasn’t 12 yet:
— Alarm, flight crews to the school, immediately!
To school, fine. No one objected. We loaded to the ferries, and just when we were about to disembark, it was announced:
— There will be an announcement on radio by Molotov...
«War!» We were called back to the school; our suitcases were taken away… We began retraining…

— Did Timoshenko’s order about graduating in Sergeants rank touch you?

Just when I started studying this happened. Half of those who applied had failed exams on purpose, but almost no one was expelled. Whether you liked it, or not, you had to study.

— You graduated as Sergeant, were about to leave to your new unit, but were returned?

Yes. We were called back and told:
There will be a new plane.
A week later we received a Yak-1. Chief of school summoned us: Comrades! I’m talking to you not as with cadets, but as with pilots. You have to master new type of airplane. But there is only one airplane of this type.
I felt chills at my back. I don’t know this plane, and it’s a single seat…
"I," He continued, — Will check this plane. I’ll try it out in the air, fly in the zone. Then I will return, land, showing you the landing. Then we will decide shifts, and we all will fly it in turns...
I was the third one. We all made 10 flights each on Yak.

— How you felt Yak-1 after Ishak?

Excellent. After Ishak — «rest and smoke». And how it landed… Like by guitar string.
We kept training in I-16s… When time came to be sent to the front, we were given simple backpack, tablet…

— Your flight school was evacuated?

We were evacuated in 1941, when Rostov had fallen, it was warm yet. Airplanes were sent away earlier. We, personnel, crossed Volga by ship to Baskunchak, from ship we moved to train to Chelyabinsk, and to the town Kustanai. That’s in Kazakhstan. River Tobol. And training again. Everybody wanted to go to the front, while commanders were weaving fists at us:
— You are ready, but wait for an order. You are in reserve.
Then, a group was gathered very fast, six men, — I, Alexandr Matashov, Vladimir Morozov, Nikolay Lgotnii — he lived in Moscow, — We were loaded on train and sent to Moscow to Directorate. From there we were sent to 3rd Ukrainian Front. We almost by foot travelled to small railway station «Dedovichi», before Dnepropetrovsk. Germans were still in Zaporozhye, but they were already on the run…

— It was 1943 already?

Yes. June 1943, it was middle of Kursk operation.

— And where you ended up?

3rd Ukrainian Front. 161st fighter regiment. Simple, not Guards.

— You were a lieutenant then, or still a sergeant?

Junior Lieutenant.

— Until 1943 there were junior commanders, senior commander. Then there were officers ranks introduced, with shoulder board — «white guards»… What was your attitude towards it?

At first “officer” was indecent, and then we got used to it…

— There must have been people who were grumbling about these changes?

Of course. It is normal situation…

— You came to the regiment, say: «Hello!», and what in reply?

Our documents were checked, who we are, how and where we flew. A closed envelop was opened, commanders read the notes and divided us:
— You go to 2nd squadron, you to 3rd…
I was sent to 2nd. Commander was Andryushenko Alexandr Mitrofanovich, he lived in Voroshilovgrad, a former civilian pilot, good commander, nice man. His deputy was Lieutenant Korneev Mikhail — he lived in Moscow. During war he became senior lieutenant, and he became Capitan after the war. He was such a crook… After the war he was arrested and stripped of all awards for some reason.

— Who was a regiment commander then?

Kaftanov. He burned even worse than I did. How it happened: our regiment suffered losses and a few pilots remained. But it was needed to fly. And regiment commanders decided to fly themselves. Four pilots flew out in a group. They returned damaged, but alive. Regiment commander landed, but his landing gear did not extend, so he had to belly land. Perhaps, his wing structure was also damaged — he rolled over nose and caught fire, we couldn’t even come to his help. I remember how I sat near my airplane fully ready, with parachute on — we were supposed to take off on escort mission when they landed. When he ignited, I dropped parachute, and we ran with other guys towards his plane. Shells began exploding. We stuck our noses into the ground; it was senseless to try to help him while they exploded. Firing stopped, and we run close. We lifted airplane by its wing, and he walked out of fire alive. He was saved by leathern overcoat. He covered himself by it, except his nose, which was completely burned away.
Commander was absent for about four or five month, we even thought that his days were over... Then he returned to the regiment. He was operated on his face, and even his nose was reconstructed by plastic surgeons…
(On 06.08.44 regiment commander Pavel Kaftanov, with his wingman Boris Kobyzev were ordered to attack a group of 4 Ju-87 covered by 12 FW-190, which were going to bomb river crossing. Soviet pilots managed to down leading bomber, what caused other bombers to drop bombs without aiming. River crossing stayed intact. Two more FW-190 were shot down, but both La-5s were severely damaged…
Burnt, unconscious pilot was taken into hospital in Leningrad (note – city was still in blockade), where he was placed in a morgue... A call from I. Zhuravlev, Commander of 14th Air Army, made medics check Kaftanovs body again. He was still alive!
Pavel Kaftanov returned to active service after treatment, and quit active service in 1959 at a rank of General-Major)

— Who was your wing leader?

In our pair we both were newcomers: Victor Fedoseev and I. I became a wingman.

— How it was decided who was a leader?

Perhaps, commander decided that way because I was younger. Victor looked more adult. But there was no difference in combat. If leader was attacking, I had to cover him. When he was done attacking, I begun attack run — he had to cover me. But there was no difference in combat…

— So, your pair was a “floating” one?

Yes, yes.

— You were in a regiment, which was equipped with La-5s or La-5FNs?

La-5FN appeared only by the end of war.

— Before you came to the regiment you haven’t flown La-5s, so how long it took you to master it enough to fly combat missions?

Less, then you are sitting with me. Taxied, took off. It was a war…

— In different regiments commanders’ thought differently about training. What was your thought about La-5 after Yak?

There was almost no difference. The only difference was that I was in love with this plane. La-5 had air cooled engine. Yak had water cooled one…

— Your La-5 had a gargrot, or you canopy was already droplet-like?

With gargrot…

— What about La-5 armaments — were two cannons enough?

It was good. Good cannons. If you fired from both cannons, it felt as if airplane stopped in flight.

— Germans had 200 rounds per cannon, we had 100-120. Isn’t’t that not enough?

What could we do, there was no way to squeeze in more. It was enough for a fight, if you don’t waste it. If you will fire at target – enough, if just towards enemy in that general direction – two hundred will not be enough. Just like with rifle or pistol…

— Lavochkins and LaGGs had weak landing gear, so they couldn’t withstand side loads. Have you had such problems?

Never heard.

— It is also known that if Las throttle was given full throttle on landing, it had a tendency to roll?

You have to know your airplane. What kind of pilot are you, if you cannot predict your airplanes reaction…

— Do you remember your first combat mission?

First combat mission was at 3rd Ukrainian Front. We entered a fight, and I didn’t complete my first turn, when my tail was hit, and it fell off…

— That is, you were shot down in your first flight?


— Who you fought against?

What do you mean against whom? Against Germans. «Focke-Wulfs»…
All my back was scratched down to the butt. I was lucky to open canopy. I landed on neutral strip, closer to our trenches. Germans wanted to capture me, but our artillery covered me. I had to lie on the ground for over an hour, like under umbrella. Then a feeling appeared — our soldiers waited for me, it was time to escape.

— Weren’t you disoriented? You were sure, where were Germans and our forces?

Why, I knew exactly. I saw it from the air, where Dnepr goes…
When we arrived to the regiment, Zaporozhye was still occupied; commander invited us to that same area — to show how land forces fight each other, so that pilots would see it from the ground. We came to the trenches, which were dug through the bushes… We were picking berries from those bushes, while commander showed us the situation... At that time Messerschmitts were flying low, just above ground — zoom-zoom. They caught our pilots from below…
That’s how they caught me…
We didn’t see them, and second pair didn’t see them too. So they hit me, and tail fell off. La-5 was made of wood, except, longerons were made of metal and engine frame, all the rest was made of wood…

— How long it took you to return to your regiment?

It was close by… frontline no further than 5 kilometers away… Our commanders were informed by ground forces and sent a truck after me.

— Weren’t you accused of loosing airplane?

No, war is war…

— When you made it to our forces, did you left your parachute behind?

Of course I dropped it. Germans used it for aiming. I was lucky to be able to make it out of there.

— What was your personal weapon?

TT Pistol.

— Did you fly with nine rounds, or with eight?

No, we did not place a round in the barrel, what if I hit it by accident… But I filled two pockets with rounds…

— After returning, you received a new plane straight away or had to wait?

There were few planes remaining. And there were several men older then we were, also young, but with more combat experience. We were sent to Gorkii after new planes.

— Did this misfortune in your first fight affect you?

I was young, and everything was fine. War is war… We had to continue fighting.
But I know about such stuff. After descent in Moldavia was dropped and we returned back several men refused to jump. They were court martialled and got eight years each for breaking an oath. There was a moment, when instinct fights brains.
My fellow men, we jumped together… And they stopped. You could shoot them on site, they won’t jump. Descent brigade commanders mother, a 79 years old woman had climbed to the training mast to show those boys:
— Look boys, I’m going to jump.
There were so many steps, and she needed help to climb up there. And she did jump with parachute; she was hooked to the training parachute and carefully brought down…

— You accomplished one mission, and were sent to Gorkii, and then regiment was pulled back. How long did it last?

I returned from Gorkii, fought for some time and then we were pulled out. We came there at winter time, and by spring we were at 3rd Pribaltiiskii Front, there we were based near French “Normandia”. «Normandia» was formed in Tula, they flew Yaks, we La-5s. And we had not a regiment formed, but whole division. Division commander Colonel Andreev was a friend of Marshal Novikov. We received La-5 airplanes at Gorkii plant, new ones.

— Did you have a possibility to choose airplanes?

Yes. They stood in rows — choose any one you would like. I bought my plane for a pack of cigarettes. A boy said to me:
— Man, for cigarettes I’ll show you best airplanes. Go over there, planes there are excellent! They, — he said, — are made of dry wood, from pre-war stocks.
He showed me:
— This one, number 25.
Airplane I got was a good one, but engines were assembled by children, and when we ferried airplanes from Gorkii, one cylinder fell off almost completely. I was covered by hot oil, and flew over Volga, while commander talked to me over radio:
— Hold on, Serezha, hold on, hold on, my dear friend. Hold on, if you will fall here, you will drown.
I made it to base, engine did not stall, but I landed soaked in oil. When engine cowl was opened, two cylinder heads were almost completely torn off…

— You were formed in ZAP?

Yes, this ZAP was at Seima station, it’s near Dzerzhinsk and Gorkii… There was GUTAP. Pilots were trained there for fighters and shturmoviks, there were a lot of planes.
We were there until January, and then we flew to Tula, town or village Volyntsevo. There our division was formed completely.

— Did you fly training missions in ZAP?

Of course. We flew a lot. Flew in pairs, new pilots came. We fired at cones too. There was a lot of training.

— How your planes were painted?

When I just came to the regiment, color was gray-green, gray with some sand, in camouflage. My No25 was pure green without any cammo…

— In which clothes you usually flew?

In flight suits at summer. At winter: trousers, fur coat…

— Did you have a leather coat?

No, there were no leather ones.

— What about Reglan coats?

No. Regiment commander had one old raglan, which saved him in the fire. We didn’t have one. We had fur coats.

— What kind of helms you had, our or German?

Let me show – and we can make a photo.

— How you were fed at the front?

No one was fed like pilots.

— And in the rear?

Fine. Everyone was fed great in aviation.

— How radio equipment worked?

Good… We already had radios.

— Were you keeping discipline in the radio communications or not?

It was differently… If we flew in a group with Korneev, he told us:
— Well, boys, let’s sing!
And he began singing… We helped him. He was a young man, large built…

— You fly singing, and here is a German pair attacks your group, how you would warn the others?

No one singed in combat. There is no time for that…

— Suggest, you saw an enemy, what was your actions? One hand on the stick, other on throttle? How you controlled prop blade pitch?

What for? I enter a fight with everything ready. There was no time for pitch control, move it to the front all the way… Only throttle and cannons. Start maneuvering as much as your strength allows you. So much that your head would spin.

— You fought mainly on horizontal or vertical maneuvers?

In initial meeting – in horizontal. Then – how it will go. If you are hit, like I was, here in horizontal — give foot in to try to extinguish the flame. If unsuccessful, — break away from the fight and go as far as you can towards your home base, gaining speed while engine works.

— How many enemy planes you shot down?

Six in all. Up till the last fight — four: «rama» (“Window frame” was a nickname of FW-189 reconaissance airplane), then three more — one «Messerschmitt» and two «Focke-Wulf 190». On 6 September 1944 I brought down two more in one fight, last one by ramming.
First one was «rama». We arrived to the 3rd Pribaltiiskii front, Pushkinskie Gory and Opochka, it’s on the River Velikaya, further on was town Ostrov. We went with Viktor Fedoseev on patrol to cover our troops. We arrived to designated spot, everything was fine. Clouds were a bit high. Then over radio we were told:
— Small ones, there is an artillery correcting airplane above you. Try to take it off.
For that we had to fly away, hide above clouds, Otherwise we couldn’t catch it, because FW-189 pilots when noticed that we were trying to intercept him would half-roll and dive straight down. If I would try to follow him, it was grave almost for sure. I wouldn’t catch him, because it was heavier… Then it made a sharp pull out above ground. Fighter had a large procorf, so if I would try to repeat his maneuver I would hit ground by belly and crash… That’s almost what happened to me.
Viktor ordered:
— Gaining altitude.
We gained altitude away from the front line, located him through holes in the clouds. Found him. I said:
— Viktor, I see him.
I was closer, from left side. Viktor ordered from behind:
— Attack!
I said:
— I won’t attack right now, let’s get closer to the clouds, and then I’ll hit him from the clouds.
— It’s up to you, I’ll cover.
I looked around, everything was clear. Engine worked like watches. I made a turn, approached from side accurately. I thought that I will strike him from the side... I thought too long — there were gunners in the rear. I just made a turn to start attack run, when he made half-roll and went down. I followed him and shouted to Viktor:
— Cover me!
I followed him, and pressed triggers with all force I had, tracers disappeared in it, but rama kept going down. I couldn’t catch it; it extended away, extended… I kept firing. Then Viktor yelled:
I pulled stick as hard as I could, and blacked out. Thanks God, I made it, turned around. Then I noticed a pillow of black smoke.
— Alive? — Viktor shouted.
I replied:
— I’m alive.
— Look at the ground, he’s burning!
We returned, and regiment commander was waiting for us with open hands, he hugged us:
— Great!
First two fighters I shot down at Ukranian front, so when I returned to Pribaltiiskii front after hospital, they were not listed in my log book…
Kozhedub and other Heroes had shot down so many enemy planes… Kozhedub scored 63 kills. But what if he would fly escort missions like we did; He wouldn’t have shot down so many planes.

— What was most pleasant work for you, and what you did not like?

Most pleasant — free hunt… There was a case when we flew with Viktor. It was getting a bit dark, just before night. Towards Eastern Prussia there was a German airfield, we flew with Viktor to the side from it, when I noticed it. We flew far to the West, almost to the shore, to Pillau. We turned back, when I noticed that Viktor disappeared:
— Viktor, where are you?
He’s absent! I made a turn… Absent! Then I heard:
— I’m at the airfield, going to land.
Something must have happened to the engine… I said:
— Fine then, I’ll go and strafe…
So I turned towards that airfield. I shot at the parked airplanes, and went home… I returned home, when AAA guarding our field opened fire at me, I gained altitude, hoping that our gunners won’t kill me. I heard commander shouting:
— What are you, parasites, doing, that’s our plane.
They didn’t let me land on my airfield. Another division, that flew Yaks, was based nearby. I flew there. They allowed me to land — showed me the lights, and I landed. From my airbase a message came:
— If Nasilevec landed at your base, keep him till tomorrow; don’t let him fly at night.
On the next day I showed my hosts how La-5 can fly inverted, a thing that Yak was unable to perform. La-5 was equipped with completely different carburetor.

— Which one was more difficult to shoot down: «Messerschmitt» or «Focke-Wulf»?

How to say… Did you fight in your childhood? Did you? How you chose your opponent?

— That is not what I’m asking for. Let’s say: at which plane you used up more rounds? Which plane could take more damage?

Point is not in taking damage, as you put it. I’d say that everything is in pilots. If you shoot well — good at stick and gun sight, both planes don’t need a lot to be brought down. But enemy were good pilots too… Each plane had its strong and weak points. Me was more agile, FW had heavier armament. But it all depended on who’s flying it.

— Could you say which missions you did not like?

There were no such missions…

— What about sturmovik escort? You have to run around them like a dog on the leash.

That’s not exactly like this. We brought sturmoviks, and if enemy comes in with a task of not allowing attack, we have to meet him. Head on… I will not turn away — I have to defend sturmoviks. My commander connects with sturmoviks, they reply:
— Small ones, start fighting, we will protect ourselves.
They can protect themselves. They formed defense circle, one after another — they had good guns in the front, and they had a gunner with large caliber machine gun in the rear. They had to be protected from attacks from above and below. That’s why they flew as low as possible while bombing and strafing.
Then sturmoviks send a report that at this day, this time and place there was a fight in which such pilots participated, with a full description and results… Some where I have such report… And I have a letter from medical battalion, thanks to which I was not sent to the filtration camp.

— Explain please.

No one knew that I fought behind enemy lines, burnt, but was still alive. And that I spent many months in hospital — too.
Ivan Degtyar was shot down behind enemy lines. On the second day he came back, but was in filtration camp for three and a half month. He told us, that he was interrogated day and night.
Just imagine, how many people returned from POW camps after the war… There were cases when commanders were not traitors, but were in a situation, when they had no other choice? No weapons or ammo. Anything could happen…

Last edited by bobbysocks; 07-27-2010 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 07-27-2010, 04:31 PM
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part 2 tomorrow
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Old 07-27-2010, 04:32 PM
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Funniest quote from the whole thing.

"— It is also known that if LAs throttle was given full throttle on landing, it had a tendency to roll?

You have to know your airplane. What kind of pilot are you, if you cannot predict your airplanes reaction…"

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Old 07-28-2010, 09:50 PM
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part 2

— But there were soldiers from Vlasov army. And they should have been identified.

Of course, they had to be identified and punished. There were a lot of them.
I was signed off, and everyone forgot about me, so I had to prove everything. Commander presented me with Combat Red Banner order.
This is what I got recently. Read it.

— From central administration of personnel of Ministry of Defense from chief of 3rd directorate A.Ilyin.
«As a result of studying documents in TsAMO RF, it is established, that for excellent accomplishing of combat missions in August-September 1944, courage and dignity shown in its course, by an order of 1st Air army commander No 03\n issued on 20.01.1945 you were awarded by order of Red Banner. In a presentation list there is written following: 06.09.44 pair of La-5s was on a mission to escort Il-2s in Aidera area, where they were to strafe enemy troops and equipment. In the target area had a dogfight with FW-190. In a head-on attack against two FW-190 had downed enemy leader, whose wingman set airplane of comrade Nasilevec on fire. When comrade Nasilevec had extinguished flames from his plane, it was attacked second time by a pair of FW-190 from behind, that set him on fire again. His burning plane comrade Nasilevec had guided at enemy FW-190 and rammed it, which fell in the area of Aidera. Comrade Nasilevec bailed out, suffering from burns on face, body and hands».

You see, what’s written there?

- «…Thus, all combat achievements, that you described in your letter, were marked and award was issued by USSR government, and there is no possibility to issue awards twice for one act».

That’s it. They fooled me. What do you mean how? For air ram in a burning plane I received nothing.

— It is written here: «Order of Combat Red Banner».

It was written tin the list later. I will explain. I was downed on 06.09.44. Award was issued 20.01.45. That’s almost five month away.
All this time I spent in hospital, where I was brought like a «roasted naked piglet». Professor gave me a vacation for 45 days. I asked him:
— If you give me a vacation time, please, send me to my unit.
He replied:
— I cannot send a cripple to the unit. You have to undergo one more operation. And I give you a vacation so that you would rest a bit.
I thought of a reason and said to him:
— Professor, my parents are in Ukraine. It is liberated, but there is an order, that officers going there for a vacation or temporary duty have to be armed with personal weapons. Otherwise I can’t go there.
I talked him into giving me a direction to my unit. There they did not know that I was still alive. Sturmovik pilots reported that there was a dogfight just like in the letter you wrote. I was written off as KIA. When I returned, regiment commander reported to 1st Air Army commander. The fight took place on 3rd Pribaltiiskii front, in 14th Air Army. When regiment commander took me to Hryukin, commander of 1st air army, we entered reception room, colonel was invited first ad he kicked him so much, that regiment commander came out all wet of sweat, and just weaved his hand — go in. I entered, introduced myself, Hryukin showed me award list and said:
— Your commander presented an award list for Order of Patriotic War. It is a small award for your work. What I can do — I crossed Patriotic War out, and wrote «Order of Red Banner» — this is all I can…

— Your attitude towards technicians?

I liked technicians a lot, because our life depended on their work.

— We talked to a Hero of the Soviet Union and he said:
— There is a statue of me erected at my homeland, but I want to see a monument for my technician by its side.

Fully agree.

— How interaction with bombers and fighters was organized? Were you warned that you were about to fly mission? Or you based at the same airfield?

We were based at different airfields. Shturmoviks can fly on their own. If shturmoviks need a cover, they ask for it from commander of 161 IAP. We were given a task with a route…

— Who set altitude of your flight?

We set it ourselves. Where we thought it would be more comfortable to meet the enemy, above or below. Above we have supremacy in altitude and speed.

— What was your attitude towards political workers?

How to say… We had a small Smirnov. There also was big Smirnov, fat, huge man. He moved from our regiment to some other, he should be living in Gatchina now… We had small Smirnov. And there was a pilot Antonyanz, aggressive fighter, so he chased this regiment political officer, small Smirnov around his plane. This political officer received Orders for asking pilots, who just returned from fight:
— How many airplanes you shot down?
He had to take notes and send them higher. This Antonyanz said:
— You bastard! Do you know what it’s like to shoot enemy plane down? Have you seen a dogfight at least from the ground? You didn’t even see it, but ask us! I’ll load you, parasite, in the cockpit tomorrow and take with me to the mission. I’ll see what you will be asking us then.
He jumped out of the cockpit and chased him round the plane.
— I’m going, — he shouted, — to kill you.
Political officer was sent away somewhere after this incident. Imagine, regiment commander burned alive in the plane, he had only one Order of Patriotic War for all war! Meanwhile political officer had five. There is how they worked, politicians.

— That is, your attitude towards them is negative?

That parasite, who… Hey, are you taking notes? Or those, how they were called — KGB?


If not one of them… For act like mine people are awarded posthumously. What if I perished? Good commander tries to show people act of heroism, issues awards. But this one: “What if he betrayed us, and we will award him. You, regiment commander, will be responsible for this”. And they refused to award me just in case…

— Were there cases of cowardice? Refusal to fly or fight?

No, there were no cases when someone would refuse to fight. There were no cases if somebody left a dogfight without a reason. But there were other cases, like some would break a plane. Or a thunderstorm would come, but we have an order for escort mission. How can we cover in a thunderstorm? It was forbidden to fly in thunder. We had a group leader at Ukraine that took his group and lead right through the cloud. He returned with a deformed fuselage, while others had perished. (In the area of Yaumatgale on 22.7.1944 Lieutenant, flight commander Anatolii Zelenov “crashed, after entering thunder clouds”)

— This isn’t cowardice…

It’s not cowardice, but what for he went there?…

— During war it is often needed to fly breaking the instructions. How often did you break flight instructions?

Listen, by instruction human body cannot withstand over 12 G loads.
In a fight you sometimes had to withstand more. Like when I followed the enemy in a dive I had to pull out with huge overload, but there was no other way to escape…

— Did you fly patrol missions?

A few times.

— I was told by a veteran that they were given precise time to patrol over frontline, so they had to fly at economic speeds, so that fuel won’t be expended too soon.

He is a fairy taller and coward. This is my answer.

— Why so? Explain, please.

Because pilot shouldn’t be telling such crap. Fuel expenditure rate was never specified for fighter pilots.

— There was an order of Stalin, to fly slower (Order No 142 was issued in 1942. Full text can be read in Russian at the following link http://bdsa.ru/index.php?option=com_...=375&Itemid=30) …

There was none. There was nothing like this… There was an order of Stalin concerning ramming, I know about it. But if I came to the front line, if I am in a fight, I can use as much fuel, as needed.

— That’s if a fight begun, but while patrolling…

I patrol at a speed that I will be sure I won’t be caught off guard. What kind of cover I will be then?
No, there never was something like this. Maybe I flew a little, not for four years, but there was nothing like this.

— How many missions you flew?

Just over 40 missions.

— For forty missions six planes downed…

Six downed, air ram…

— Did you shoot at ground targets?

Yes, two times. I singlehandedly strafed airfield… With guns. We did not have bombs.

— For what reason your regiment did not receive Guards?

I don’t know, it was Red Bannered, Suvorov regiment. (161st, Riga, Order of Suvorov Fighter Air Regiment) We were in reserve, and were thrown everywhere. I don’t know why we did not receive Guards.

— How many HSUs were in your regiment?

I don’t know them. Timur Frunze received an HSU for just a few flights. I don’t know how many planes he shot down.
Here an extract from official regiment history: «During GPW regiment flew 5943 combat missions, pilots participated in 710 dogfights, shot down 246 planes, destroyed trucks with supplies and troops - 594, killed 1386 enemy soldiers and officers».

— How a kill was confirmed?

Until it was confirmed, it was not credited. Confirmation could come from special intelligence or from ground troops…

— Pilots from your group could confirm a kill?

From our flight? No. Sturmovik pilots could.

— Sturmoviks confirmed your ram?

All in the documents. And it was written in the award presentation list…

— Did you have a tradition to draw stars for kills? Or, perhaps, some inscriptions or drawings?

I had an inscription on the left side of the fuselage: «For combat friend and comrade Viktor Fedoseev».
Fedoseev was killed during liberation of Ostrov. (Jr. Lieutenant Viktor Fedoseev was killed in action 23.8.1944) We flew in a pair; behind us was a pair, and a flight in front. I didn’t even see it coming, Fokker dove past me out of the sun, sent a burst into Viktors plane, I tried to follow German in a dive, but it got away – speed difference was too great. Viktor burned alive in his plane…

— With whom you were in your last fight?

With Vladimir Suharev.

— Did he survive?

No, he perished… (Lieutenant Vladimir Suharev was killed in a dogfight near Tartu on 06.09.1944)
It was reported to the regiment, that his plane went in a steep dive and hit an opposite river bank.

— How many pilots, with whom you came to the regiment made it to the end of war?

Alexandr Matashov, here is the photo. Vladimir Morozov, Denezhkin… A lot of those pilots were killed, who were in the regiment before my appearance there…
Home village of our pilot Lieutenant Mogiley — Pyatihatki, behind Dnepropetrovsk was not liberated yet. He flew to the village to show his relatives that he was alive and coming; Germans noticed his flight, found and exterminated all his relatives… Mogiley was killed in 1943 at 3rd Ukrainian Front I was in the regiment, when it happened…
(Quite possibly, he speaks of Lieutenant Grigorii Mogiley, from reconnaissance squadron 113 GvIAP, 10 IAK. Was born in Pyatihatka. Did not return from combat mission 23.9.1944. Possibly, was shot down while in ranks of 161 IAP in 1943, was wounded, and after recovering was sent to 113 GvIAP for further service)

— On average how many flights young pilot lived?

How to say… If one made it through 5-6 fights, it meant that his chances were very high.

— Was there a “national question” in your regiment?

I’m Ukrainian, there were Russians…
I believe there were more Ukrainians. Ivan Staroryko was Ukrainian, Mogiley was Ukrainian. There were a lot of Ukrainians. There were no Byelorussians. Armenians were present… Very good fighters. Antonyanz was a good guy, tall man, we were friends. Very good guy… (Lieutenant Georgii Antonyanz, born in 1922 in Irkutsk. Killed in a dogfight on 17.8.1944) He was shot down over Pskovskoye Lake.
There were two Jews: Polevich — he was shot up in a first dogfight, he didn’t make it to the airfield and made an emergency landing. After that he became frightened and started complaining about headaches and so on. He was transferred to stab, where he somehow earned an Order of Red Banner. Second one, Makarevich was transferred to another regiment in Seim.

— Here are two pilots near Lavochkin, Who are they?

I believe they are both dead by now. Colonel Alexandr Matashov was a flight technique inspector in Leningrad. Second one — Vladimir Morozov. He was sent to Japanese war and perished there. They were my friends.

— Were you bombed at the front?

Not at the front. When our flight school was rebasing, we crossed Volga and were bombed near salt lake in Solemolki.
There was a big hospital in a former school building, full of wounded, and bombs hit it. After bombing finished we went there to look what happened, and noticed blood figures on the walls. Doctor explained that a nurse was running through a corridor when bomb blew up, and she was thrown at the wall. All wounded and most of the personnel were killed in that hospital…

— What was your personal opinion about Stalin and Communist party?

We were all in Komsomol then. We were raised by Party and Komsomol - communists. We were not talking about Stalin, we discussed how to get to the front and defend our Motherland.

— You said that German tried to kill you while you descended in a parachute. Have you heard about such cases from our side?

Can’t recall, really.
He was my enemy, I fought him, and maybe just moments ago I killed his wingman, so he was trying to kill me. On the other hand, I was descending at German held territory, so there was no reason in shooting at me.

— I’m asking if our pilots strafed parachutists. Rudel in his book wrote that it was a standard practice.

I don’t know. I don’t know of a single case.

— What was a strong and what was weak side of our pilots? And of Germans?

Listen, — our pilots had lots of courage, bravery, intention to win at all costs. Germans never rammed a single our airplane.

— In which aspect German pilot was better than our pilots? And which deficiencies they had?

There were aces that were shot down by our beginner pilots. Dogfight is a dogfight. Whatever ace he was. At flying technique we were roughly equal. But I will say once again — they lacked courage of our pilots.

— What about airplanes? Were we equal, or La-5 was worse than FW-190?

It’s not that airplane was worse. At first we were a bit too careful about it. A lot was said about Focke-Wulf. It’s like boxers in the ring. So much is said about one of them, that his opponents really think that he is so great, while in reality... Time passes and everything gets in its place... Messerschmitt was a good plane, maneuverable, good in handling. But I wouldn’t trade my La-5 for any other plane… I could fly it so hard, that no one could get me.

— Let’s return to a fight when you rammed. You bailed out, or fell with your plane?

It is written here that I bailed out. Did author of this reply know that cockpit was full of fragments? That I had no possibility to open cockpit, and leave it with parachute, so I was sentenced to death… They write that I bailed out. Hero was given for air rams when author stayed alive, and brought plane to the ground. What I did was a death wish.
I know of no other case, when air ram was made on a burning plane. Those parasites hid this case from the people. But I have no health to keep fighting them. At the age of 25 I was a wreck. No one recognized me, when I returned to the regiment; I had a mouth that I could hold only a cigarette…
13 days I was in the marsh, without food or treatment, it’s a miracle that I stayed alive. Motherland must have thanked me for what I did…

— Let’s return to the beginning…

Let me tell you how it happened. How I hate these democrats! He wrote an answer to me without looking inside of the problem…
I rammed on 3rd Pribaltiiskii, but was awarded from commander of 1st. Almost half a year later. I returned to service only on 5 May. For 8 month professor treated and cared for me, I was like a torn soldiers boot. Doctors wanted cut my legs away, but I didn’t let them. And my legs still with me. I was blind, and have a document to prove that. I worked until 60 and now I almost completely blind again… I can see just a bit out of this eye. When I wrote a letter to Putin, he was a president then, and asked to provide me with a cheapest car, which I can’t buy on my own, so that my daughter could take me somewhere away from my room, because I cannot walk the streets anymore, he forwarded my letter to governor of Leningrad Oblast Serdyukov. He, in turn forwarded my letter to local social service burocrat Markina. Do you know what she found in me to refuse in my wish? Elderness! I wrote here a letter: «If you were where I became old in 25, you wouldn’t write me things like this».
There was a chief of electrical service, and when he was a child he tried to disarm something and lost two fingers… He received a car among the first…
I went to Ukraine, there was a man working in official structures, who knew me. He asked me:
— How are you, Sergei Isaakovich?
I told him everything. He wrote to the government, you read the answer…

— We met things like this…

Well, I’ll start from the beginning.
We were sitting by our planes smoking, when a flare was fired. We took off, met a six plane Il-2 formation. Our task was to escort six Il-2s to strafe enemy troops and equipment at Egueima river crossing.
Shturmoviks flew at an altitude of 800-1200 meters, not higher. We were escorting them a bit above. Just as we crossed frontline, it was 20 kilometers behind Tartu… I heard:
— Small ones take a fight…
I began attack run, Vladimir said:
— I’ll cover you.
I replied:
— I’m aiming at closest leader.
I took aim. I thought, this bastard is going to get it. He was holding to the last moment — he thought that “Russian will turn away”. No, bastard, «turn away» my ass! I saw how he banked and put full load at his belly. He immediately caught bright fire and went down, I followed. Vladimir shouted:
— Stop! Get out of the fight.
As I was pulling out, I was hit from below left behind… airplane caught fire. I pressed a pedal — flame reduced, then extinguished. Just as I stopped skidding I got a second hit from below. Those were two hunters… If you saw enemy in a fight, it was not a problem to defeat him. Worst of all was when you couldn’t see them coming. Those two hunters approached from below. How did they make it, Shturmoviks were there? We had a bit of extra altitude, so he attacked me from below, when I tried to get away from a fight. I flew away, made a half roll, and noticed enemy planes. Vladimir was attacking one of them, while another chased him from behind — about to open fire. I pushed throttle forward, airplane responded well, well, thanks God! I had to pay enemy for everything! And I went… then we collided

— That is, you hit from front below?

Yes. It was the only way. I was coming from below, and he did not see me. German was in a climb, trying to get to Vladimir’s tail.
When I hit him, my plane made a roll over remains of the left wing above his fuselage and fell apart. I still remember this far… Past this moment I lost conscience.
Shturmoviks reported on the ground that both planes fell to pieces. I came to my senses, but saw nothing. I was spinning and something strangled me. Belts were connected here by a special lock. I pulled it and belts unfastened. I pulled the parachute string. Parachute opened, right boot fell down, helm was compressing my scull, and I tried to take it off…

— If you are tired, maybe we should come some other day?

Give me a moment, I’ll catch my breath. I have poor health now. I became old. Where we stopped?

— You are descending on a parachute.

My face was burnt, but goggles saved my eyes. I noticed that flight suit was still on fire. Wherever I touched, my body ached… then a stream of tracers flew past me. Those were Germans trying to execute me in the air. There were ten of them. I downed two of them, and Vladimir was attacking… but at least seven remained… shells flew past me, but he returned for another run. He strafed me three times, while I was hanging there, and managed to snap a few cords… But most frightening was that I was going to land right at Tartu-Tallinn road. It was just strafed, trucks were burning… Folwark was to the left, marsh — to the right. And a crowd of Germans near folwark.
I was descending closer to marsh and river, on the opposite side from the road. Germans were looking like fascist was trying to shoot me.
When I landed, I took off parachute. When I lifted my head, Germans opened fire from machine guns and assault rifles… Bastards! I jumped into the river. Got over it, hid in the bushes, took my helm away, left boot, which was still on, got pistol out. Checked it, made sure that pockets with ammo were still with me.
I decided not to give up. Better to finish myself off. There was a trench full of water, and a field with cut grass, and a hay pile. I got into this trench, to be sure that they won’t find me in the bushes. Dogs were barking… I got into the water up to the neck.
I held pistol in one hand, other one was completely burnt. I decided to stand there. Germans opened fire with machine pistols, grass was falling around me, but they did not hit me… A night passed, I heard some fire at a large distance. Then there was silence. By this time I began understanding that I was about to die. At first it was even comfortable – cold water eased pain in my burns… But my legs were not working by now. I froze. There was no ice around me, but when extended my hand I reached a place where it was forming. I thought to myself: «Well, Sergey, this is where you are going to die – in a swamp…».
Morning came. Airplanes were flying over me, but without any fighting. In the morning they once again strafed this swamp. At the evening of the second day I carefully listened around, and tried to get out of the water. Legs were not working completely, with a lot of difficulties, pulling on a grass; I made it to the swamp shore. When I sat down, I was exhausted. That was it. Then I noticed a pile of hay on the other side of the trench, and a bit further another one. No one around... Absolute silence... Then I thought, if I was going to die, then I will die doing something. Once again I crawled into that trench. With great difficulty I crossed it, when a hare scared me to death, I decided that it was a German, and hardly contained myself not to shoot. I whispered:
— Oh, my God…
After lying in a trench a bit I reached hay pile and got inside. I have no idea, how long it took me… Legs and hands were completely worthless. Somehow I made it inside, camouflaged entrance hole as good as I could, and fell asleep. No idea how long I slept. I dreamed of sitting in a restaurant, eating some delicatessen… Perhaps, my body demanded food this way. I dug out a hole in the ground near me, took out first aid kit. It was in oilcloth coating. I tore it, took out bandages, and used it to get some water, I could only suck it, because my mouth was scarring with only a small hole remaining… I laid there sleeping, woke up, sucked some water and doze off again. I felt that the end was coming. If I won’t get out, I’ll die. I heard our airplanes flying over, but I heard no AAA fire. Thus, it came to me that front must have moved West wards… I got out of the hay and sat by its side. My legs couldn’t bed, so I just sat there, but I hid a pistol behind my back. I was hoping that some locals would come by. If there are hay piles, there should be civilians. Then, a dry branch cracked, my hart began racing. What if those who were coming would press a trigger…? I couldn’t’t see who it was. He came close to me and asked:
— Who are you, tank crew member?
I replied as I could:
— No, I’m pilot.
— How did you get here?
I answered:
— My plane was shot down, I burned.
— O-o-o-o… Brother, how did you managed to survive here?
I said:
— You see how I lived here.
— What should we do with you? You can’t even speak well? Oh, we are even scared to look at you.
I replied:
— I can’t open my mouth. And I look like I my condition allow me. Take me to the road. There should be a road nearby.
— We can’t. We are side patrol, our unit is moving to the front.
I asked:
— Is front close by?
— It’s far away, 20-30 kilometers towards Tallinn.
— Oh, and I’m lying here all this time…
Two men picked me up, and then one said:
— Let me hold him alone, there is nothing left of him, only bones.
When they lifted me they saw a pistol in my hand:
— What is this, you were trying to defend yourself?
— Of course.
They brought me to the road and placed at the road side and said:
— When trucks will pass, independent where they will be going, to the front or to the rear, raise your hand, and they will take you.
They left, and maybe ten minutes later I heard engine sound, I raised hand, and truck stopped. Driver shouted:
— Well, get in.
How could I get in, when I was about to go to the other side... I weaved my hand. He got out, walked towards me.
— Are you tank crew member?
Damned, I was getting tired of this:
— No, I’m a pilot.
— Where can I take you, I have to take ammunition to the front?
I said:
— I don’t care anymore, just take me somewhere away.
— Damn, I will take you to the field hospital at the frontline.
He positioned me in a truck, closed the door and we took off. I asked:
— What’s the date today?
— Nineteenth. Why do you ask?
— I was shot down on 6th…
I lost conscience, and came to my senses when he was calling medics. They dragged me out of the cabin and took to the hospital.

— How long was your travel from hospital to Moscow?

Oh, I don’t know. Not too long, as I was brought there by plane.
Then a letter from a nurse of that hospital came, I keep it with me all my life, as it saved me from filtration…
When I was in Moscow, twice people from SMERSh came to check me. First time professor didn’t let them in, because I was blind then. On the second visit I gave them this letter. They checked all facts in it and returned it…
For eight month professor Vishnevskii treated me in Central Aviation Hospital (Professor, Academic Alexandr Vishnevskii, 1874-1948. Famous Russian surgeon, inventor, founder of Moscow Surgery Institute. Central Aviation Hospital was founded on 7 May 1942 with a sole purpose of treating wounded aircrews. Was located in Sokolniki area of Moscow. After the war it took part in examining possibility of manned space flights. Currently still exists as a part of medical wing of MO RF).

— When you returned to your regiment your belongings…

Were already taken by the other pilots. I came – nothing was left.
— We thought you were dead. — They said.
When I arrived, they firstly dragged me to the canteen. From control post it was announced that such pilot came back. A whole truck of people came to the Control post to meet me. They brought me to the canteen, where the same girls worked who knew me before:
— Sergey, you are alive!
«Bla-bla-bla…» As I sat in the canteen and ate, whole regiment came there:
— We are going to celebrate in the evening…

— By the way, when you received 100 grams?

At the evening at front only. When there were flights. If we were on the ground, then we were looking for it ourselves.

— Did you receive extra 100 grams for shooting own enemy planes?

Can’t remember about extra 100 grams, but we were paid for shooting enemy planes down. Bomber cost 2 000 rubles, fighter — 1 000. «Rama» was accounted as bomber. We also were paid for number of accomplished missions…
When I demobilized, I had about 25 000 rubles.

— How you found out about war end?

How I found out… I came on 5th May, and even managed to accomplish two flights on 9 may.
Regiment commander asked:
— Well, do you remember how to fly?
— No way.
— Well, let’s try.
He sent a technician.
— Prepare an airplane for him.
I took parachute, tested it at full throttle.
— Try to taxi.
I taxied, and then took off. Flew over Konigsberg, looked at it, and landed.
Two times I flew with my friends. Germans kept fighting there until 15 May. There was so much equipment there…
We later went there by foot. We also walked to Konigsberg, looked at the fortifications. Everything was in concrete, well prepared.

But still, when you were told that war ended?

On 9 May it was announced over radio. But we had to kill those who did not want to surrender…

— In Eastern Prussia there were a lot of Vlasov army soldiers. Were you informed about them?

I was afraid of those parasites. There were cases when pilots disappeared…

— War ended for you on 15 May, what happened next?

Then we were sent to Novgorod, airfield Krichevitsy. When we came there, everything was destroyed, only walls remained, so we had to rebuild all village first…
In April 1946 I demobilized.

— You never flew again?

I was invited to fly U-2 in a detached light transportation and connection squadron, but I couldn’t fly it due to open cockpit, since my face was burnt… So I decided to quit.

— May be a stupid question. If you had a chance to repeat everything, what you would have changed?

Nothing. I would live it all again with pleasure… Even if when I studied I dreamed of a piece of bread with a half kilo of jam on top… It was hard to live, but interesting. We helped each other…
I gave an oath to defend Motherland, and was ready to give my life away if needed... I stayed alive miraculously. My time passed, but I don’t regret about a single minute…
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Old 08-03-2010, 03:53 PM
Nomad_of_war Nomad_of_war is offline
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That was an amazing read Bobby, thanks for posting that!
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Old 08-11-2010, 03:16 PM
Lost Apiarist Lost Apiarist is offline
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 73

Re-posted from http://109lair.hobbyvista.com/articl...er/stigler.htm

This is a sitdown interview with German Ace Franz Stigler, who is perhaps most famous for escorting a wounded B-17 back to safety.

Interview and narrative © Michael Fuller 2003 exclusively for The 109 Lair.

Is that your plane, the big picture?

That was my plane in Afrika…

You know…I really don’t know how to start…I really appreciate you sitting down with me and spending this time. Do you mind if I just start asking you a few questions?

Yeah, go ahead…

You began your career with Jagdgeschwader 27…how did you get involved with them and the Luftwaffe…Had you always wanted to be a pilot?

Well, I was a pilot before, uh…the Air Force...also. At the time…we, uh…became pilots…we had nothing to do, uh…with the Air Force, so we were attached to the Lufthansa, and uh…so we were also…I mean, I was out, uh… of my own training…uh…as a pilot…as a…as a private person, and, uh…then I went to, uh…to train in seaplanes… I had an unlimited seaplane license.

Wow…did you always want to fly as a boy?

Well…I wanted…My father was a pilot in the first world war, my grade 5 teacher was a…a fighter pilot in the first world war…my brother and I…we… joined the flying club with glider planes, you know… when I was 12 years old, my brother was…16 at the time. I think my first glider flight…was a little… between 12 ½ and 13 years.

So you were fairly experienced then?

Oh, yeah…

When did you report to JG27?

I didn’t report…I was reported…and so…in…1942.

Now, the first plane you flew in the Luftwaffe was the 109?


Which was the first Model was it?


How did you like it?

I liked it a more than any other one…this is an F model.

(Franz points back to the massive painting behind me)

Cool…it has the tropical filter as well.
Yeah…and where is a G…(Franz looks around date the multitude of painting and photographs)… that is a G model here…(Franz points to another smaller painting, again featuring a G-6 in his original colours)…that’s the last 109 I was flying.

The last one you flew was a G?

Yeah…actually it was a K model, but uh…we used it as a G model, you know…and then I was a…a pilot for the 262 also.

How did you like it? I mean you had so many years as a pilot, and you basically went from a prop driven plane over to a jet. Did your experience flying help with the 262, or did you have to learn over again, being something totally new?

No, no…my flying experience as I said…was with all kinds of - I don’t know how many different types I flew, maybe a hundred...and uh, so…it was something that we flew…same with the flying boat, you know. I flew all kinds of flying boats, you know...up to 4 motors… at the time

From what I understand, the 262 was very dangerous? The engines had a tendency to overheat…

Oh yeah…

…Did you feel safe in it flying?

Oh yeah, oh yeah, very safe you know…our engines were very good, you know… which in the end it helps. No…I… once had an officer in Germany, but uh…

(Franz stopped himself…it sounded like it was quite personal, so I didn’t pry…)

What was you first impression when you first flew the 262?

Well, we…uh…we had only single seaters, you know…there…and then at the first factory where I had learned to fly it, we were 14…the first 14 men, I was one of them. They, uh…stud on the…stood on the wing, you know, we were sitting in the cockpit, and they showed us everything…and so, then they said to us, “this is your speed for take off, and then, uh…that’s your landing speed… now take off!”… you know…

Really! (I start laughing).

…And that’s how we learned to fly it.

Wow…The cockpit in the 262 was much bigger than the 109 wasn’t it?

Yes, big…and comfortable…it was a comfortable airplane and a safe airplane, let’s put it this way, you know. My Number 3 got…2 days before the war was over…a friend of mine… had not a chance to fly the airplane yet, he had so many flights, only he had not very many with it and so I said, “okay, fly it”, you know…he killed himself…on takeoff. (Through research I found out that it was Leutnant Pirchhan. After persuading Stigler to allow him to fly the plane, soon after take-off Pirchhan crashed at Oberweissenfeld, north of the airfield, totally destroying the aircraft and was fatally wounded. He died a few hours later being comforted in Stigler’s arms in a farmer’s field)

On the 109 and the 262, the Revi sights were always mounted slightly to the right…

Yes, uh…on the panel…in front sometimes…but usually they were in the middle.

Why did they sometimes have them to the right?

Uh, usually we were…uh, right handed, you know…and so…on the 109 they were not so to the right…on the 109 they were right in front of you.

Your favourite was the F model, yet the one that was produced the most was the G6…


…But most pilots preferred, like yourself, the F models and the earlier G’s, like the G-2. What was the reason behind that?

The G6 basically had a heavier motor and could fly higher…not more speed, but that’s it…it starts getting heavier every time they put something new in.

Did you ever have the GM-1 boost or MW-50 in any of your planes?

Oh yeah, we used it quite often…in combat you know.

How long did it last?

Uhh…you were not allowed to have it at more than 5 min., you know…if you used it 10 minutes, then motor has to come out.

It makes the engine worse?

It wrecks the motor.

And this was for the higher altitude?


And at what speed could you get up to?

Oh boy…I don’t remember…450 or 500 km…

Like you said, you could only use it for 5 min. otherwise you would burn out the engine. How many 5 min. intervals could you use? Did you have to shut it down for a period of time to let the engine cool?

That’s okay…that uh…it didn’t matter. You…but you never used it for five minutes…a minute, minute and a half and that’s it.

The armament, you used on the Messerschmitt…you used the Mk108 cannon…

Yeah we had it in the middle…we had two centimetre…or later a three centimetre Cannon…and then a thirty millimetre on top…two of them.

Was there a fairly big muzzle flash from the cannon?

Oh yeah…oh yeah…(Franz pints to a picture of his Me262). Up there we had four, three centimetre cannons…I shot a wing off a B-17 once...

Did the aircraft move quite a bit when you fired the weapon?

No, no, not at all.

Really? I assumed that because of the large calibre cannon, the plane would move quite a bit.

No, no…only very small…but that’s all.

What about the gun pods…a lot of pilots had the option of these…they found that -

Oh, I never… I hated them!! I never had them on my airplane. As soon as I got a new airplane… I say, “That’s a damn part, off with them!”...Made it sluggish, you know.

Yeah, I heard a lot of pilots hated them…so, if most pilots didn’t like them, as it made the airplane sluggish, poor manoeuvrability, why do you suppose they kept trying to incorporate them?

Just more firepower...

Now, in the F model, you had the automatic Prop Pitch control… I know the early Emils it was all manual. Did you ever switch to manual settings?

You could…have uh, have it not automatic, but uh…as soon as we were off the ground we would put in automatic.

So it just handles the engine better?

Because uh...in the air… you might overrev it, and the motor will start to burn

Okay…so you would only switch it to manual for take off and landing?


I know on your left side you had the throttle and adjustments for prop and the mixture lever.


Where did you adjust the prop?

Oh, you can FORGET about the mixture control!! It’s not like in a…in a…like in an American airplane or British airplane they had their mixture control. Forget about it, we never had to...it was automatic. Like once throttle had a button on…for prop control…and uh…you could shift it like a gear thing and it would make the motor...you just push it and could adjust it and make it more…

And that was on the throttle?

Yes, there was a button and you could switch it. There was a clock there… in the air…on the control panel… that showed you how your prop…and uh, how it works and was condition.

I’ve actually seen pictures of Galland, and it looked like he mounted a telescopic gun sight to the Revi…like a rifle scope. Have you ever seen that?

(Franz laughs) No, never…

Now the view from the Me109…backward was really difficult. Did you keep yourself completely strapped it when you were flying?

Oh yeah..

And how did you compensate for the lack of being able to see behind.

Well you could turn your head hundred-eighty degrees around. We didn’t have any mirrors in like the Spitfire…what you did was when you strapped yourself in, you had your shoulder straps loose…and uh…and not so tight…so you could move…you could put it in autopilot too… you know…

You flew the Me110 as well correct?

Yeah…(Franz makes a “disgusted” face)

Did you ever fly the Focke Wulf 190?

Oh yeah, I flew it for a few hours, but not in combat.

Did you like it?

I liked it very much…but we were all so used to the 109. But uh, Focke Wulf 190 D model, was far better than we had…and the 152 was even so better.

Yeah...the 152 was the final one…How was the view…the canopy was a lot bigger…

Oh yeah,

…Than that of the 109…did you find the view a lot easier?

Oh yeah, it was…but…the landing gear you had to be careful, because we had a narrow landing gear, the FW had uh…a wider one.

So being on the western front, you obvious flew against the Mustang, Spitfire-

P-7 – uh, P-47, Spitfire, Hurricane…the P-38...and no more…some of them I flew, also…the captured ones.

What did you think of the American and the British planes?

Well it, uh…the P-47 and the… P-51 was a…a good airplanes, you know…and depends also who was sitting in it…it’s always this. Did you ever see the Spitfire out in the Vancouver Airport?

No, I haven’t.

It uh…was the Spitfire Fourteen…(Franz leans over and grabs a journal from his desk and pulls out a business card). If you like, you can write the phone number down…Just phone him and he, uh…let you look at it, yo u know... (Franz opens a book containing a wealth of business cards, all aircraft related)

I didn’t know they had one there actually...


I look at the business card. “Penta Aviation”.

His name is uh…Bob Jens…he’s just now rebuilding a...a Mosquito…But he has the money… so. Owns two…owns two hangers out there at Vancouver airport…but costs a lot of money…really a lot

So when you were flying, how easy was it to spot an aircraft? Could you recognize it at 500, 1000 meters?

It depends, uh…I could, I had pretty good eyes…and I could see pretty far. Of course that’s what you needed, especially in Afrika, where you could see the enemy before he saw you.

What were the conditions like in Afrika…the weather…did it affect you at all as a pilot?

No, I was uh…I was used to it; I was two years there. We had people who they had to send them to Russia because they couldn’t stand the heat and sun…both sides was the same.

The Trop F model had these odd attachment points for a “Sun Umbrella”. Did you actually use those things?

(Franz laughs) Umbrella? No, no. See, we had also a rifle in there…inside...in the airplane...two shotguns and one rifle. Three barrels, you know…in a box. The only thing was we never used it. But uh, as soon as one airplane belly-landed, the rifles disappeared!

(I laughed) I can imagine…someone taking it for their collection! If you were flying against a Mustang or a spitfire, was it easy to lose sight of them?

That depends, you know…I mean I had a lot of experience…I flew a lot of different airplanes… and I flew the Spitfire XII, V, and IX. I flew. In Afrika the Five, and in Germany the Nine. And this one out there at Vancouver Airport is a Fourteen, the last model…2000 hp, 5 bladed prop.

Yeah, I’ve never seen the 5 bladed one…the 3 and a 4 bladed one for sure...

The last ones. Big Griffon engines. With the engine of 2000hp, they couldn’t build a prop so big, so they made 5 blades.

What plane of the American or British did you fear the most, or show the biggest challenge for you?

…The P-51.

It was one of the fastest.

Yeah… It was one of the fastest and most manoeuvrable.

What was you favourite thing to do…in Afrika…or anywhere on the western front… when you weren’t flying? When you were on leave, what did you like to do as a hobby, what did you like to do for fun?

(Franz smiles quickly)…Play with the girls!

(I laugh)…well that’s a…that’s a good hobby! Actually, I heard a rumour that pilots used to fill their drop tanks with beer, is that true?

Oh yeah…sometimes we used to drink from it…sometimes for transport.

We share a laugh.

…I had a Messerschmitt 108 here in Vancouver…

Yeah, I think I saw a picture of it here.

Yeah…this one here. I had this one for 16 years. I sold it to an Australian.
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Old 08-11-2010, 03:29 PM
Lost Apiarist Lost Apiarist is offline
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Posts: 73


You had it painted in the Luftwaffe colours as well.

Yeah…exactly to the replica of the colours I had.

So, what was the 108 used for mainly?

To bring…uh, generals from the rear back to the front also…only for transport.

You have some beautiful pictures here…. Did you ever operate from the same fields as JG 51, JG 53...did you ever meet any of the pilots?

I have…after the war, not uh…during the war…during the war when they were shot down. But after the war I was…I met survived American Fighter aces and a few times invited…you know…up there is Douglas…(points to a picture)…the left one…with 2 wooden legs…and the middle one, was uh…was one of his…Squadron Commanders…

(Looking around he room I see a panel from Galland's F-4) Is this here an original?

This is a side panel from an airplane, you know.

This is an original?

Original, yeah…

Do you mind. If I take a look at it.

Oh yeah, it was taken from uh…the manufacture of the last year of the F... You see that little tag...see that little tag, that’s the manufacture of it. On the bottom left is an original Werk number plate. That was General Galland’s.

Wow! I have to take a picture of it before I go. You had to bail out before and use your parachute…

Yeah, six times…I belong to the Caterpillar Club. Six survived by parachute…it’s an international club.

What was it like the first time you used your parachute? You were obviously trained to use them…


No? Really?

We were not trained, but, uh, when you use…when you HAVE to use them…then you use them - We didn’t give a shit about anything else.

(I start to laugh)

The first time my airplane was on fire…the motor, uh, flames were coming in, and had to get out fast. I still had my hands and my face burnt, you know…but uh…you get out fast.

You didn’t even think, you just pushed the canopy and jumped?

No, you just take…the canopy takes off. You just pull a lever and the canopy takes off…And you threw the…the belts from the airplane because you were tied down… and you just take ‘em off…take the stick… and fly and push it down… if you can still use it, because sometimes you cannot, uh…control the airplane anymore, no. Half a wing missing or both…I jumped six times I jumped...

Did you ever get used to it?

No…I never could get used to it.

When you did lose an airplane either due to a bad landing or enemy fire, how did you get a new one assigned to you when you got back to your airbase? Did you automatically get a new one?

There was always something there, some other airplane there. The Jagdgeschwader Squadron Commander always had 2 airplanes as well...

When new pilots came in…younger pilots….

They had to bring their own airplane with them.

Okay…so when a new models came out…because you had so many missions did you get priority over the newer pilots? Did you get the aircraft first then the younger pilots?

No, we didn’t do that. We didn’t get priority. We didn’t do it. Whoever came in last with the latest model, that’s his airplane, you see. Whoever it was a Corporal or, uh…it was a General it doesn’t matter who it was. We had other pilots, Corporal, Private with us you know, like…uh… the squadron got bigger and in rough shape…with a bunch of youngsters you know, all kinds of ‘em…Lieutenants, and…Sergeants. (Franz points to another photo) These guys together shot down within about 15 minutes, uh…24 B-24’s.

Wow, in 15 minutes! Did you always have the same wingman?

Uh, usually, yes…I kept ‘em. We usually flew with 4 people…another 3. Schwarm we’d call it….”Swarm”…it was a…a wingman and then again a leader and this also a wingman.

And you usually kept the same wingman.

Yeah…as long as he was there...

If your aircraft was being repaired, would you borrow someone else’s? I know you said there was always an extra one...

Yeah, if you wanted you could borrow…but let them fly their own airplane. For repairs…change the whole motor was in-fact four-hour job. And, uh, if you had holes in it, you’d just put tape on it to cover the holes. As long as nothing was…destroyed inside, y’know controls and so on…there they had special tools…

Did you fly with Edu Neumann?

Edu Neumann…that was my Gruppe Commander in Afrika... I met him 3 years ago…and he’s in poor shape now...getting old…91 years old…

Do you guys meet when you can…other pilots?

Yeah…I meet some of them…we are not of many left for JG27. We had a…a meeting and they took 3 different units together because there wasn’t too many pilots left…. I am one of the oldest ones - If I’m not the oldest one...except Neumann.

What was he like?

I did not fly with him… he didn’t do much flying though.

What about Gunter Rödel…

Yeah that’s Rödel there. (Franz points to a picture of a black and white officer posing on a desk with a phone on his ear)

Oh here on the left, the one with the phone?

Yeah. He was my, uh…firsts Squadron Commander...and I made my first missions I flew with him.

Did you learn quite a bit from him?

Oh yeah…he was good…

Out of all the pilots you have flown with was there one who made a really good lasting impression on you?

Uh, well…this depends...someone a year or so…I had a Sergeant...and he had a Ritterkreuz. And he, uh…he got shot down…uh…in Germany…over Germany. He had a Cross of Knights and then he got after he was killed...he got the one with oak leaves. He was only non-com (NCO) that had this got one.

What was his name?

Oh…damn…I’m terrible with names…my wife might know the name, she would know his name…

Did you as pilots always have regular training courses on escape and evasion, survival…

Yeah, we had them, but no one gave a shit. You lost everyday you lost a few pilots…everyday…and so…we are sitting there every night writing to a wife or to parents, you know…you’d have half a bottle of cognac besides you…because that’s the only way you could do it, you know. We’d have to write about what a “hero” he was, and so…late in the afternoon there’d be about 6…multiply by…by 2…but, uh…we were sitting out of the evening with all the other men, the liquor and the beer…and we were sitting in the office and writing…and we had to write it by hand…We couldn’t get the…the Master Sergeant to write the letters, no…YOU had to write the letters.

With new pilots…obviously you have better experience with the aircraft like the F and the G…did the new pilots have problems?

You’d put them in the middle…for the first few flights, you know…so they know what is going on. The…the new pilots they hardly could fly the 109…they had seventy or eighty hours of flying time. They had of heck of a time learning to fly the airplane…take off and land, you know. As I said, every pilot came with a plane. They came form the school and then they went to uh…to the manufacture, or someplace where they had the airplanes, and they would come with them…especially in Afrika.

In Afrika, was the tropical filter used just for takeoff?

Yes, for takeoff and landing you close it…because of the sand, you know…after you go about a couple of thousand feet high…and then you open it…

How many times were you out per day flying missions?

Sometimes three a day, three times, yeah…especially in Afrika. And we didn’t waste any time because if the bombers.

How long did it take for fatigue to hit you, tiredness, wanting to take a break?

I don’t know, I don’t remember…we had no time for fatigue.

Out of all the planes you’ve flown in your whole life, including like your 108…what was you favourite plane, from the day you started flying?

My favourite plane?…I had a Heinkel 70 …have you heard of it?

Yeah, it’s big plane.

It was like…looked like a Spitfire…only bigger, it was 6 seater. One pilot in the front, and in the middle down there, the passengers. It was a kind of a…how do you say it…a commuter plane…you bring a pilot from some, uh...airport to the main area…and I had it for…oh, I don’t know how long. I teached my students with it…I visited my girlfriends with it…on the weekend I could fly anywhere I wanted…

So that was your favourite?

Yeah! It was fast, you know. At the time it was the fastest airplane there was.

What year was this?

Uh…43 or 44…No, 33 or 34

There was a gunsite for a Me262 (EZ42)…my friend Roger waned me to ask you about it…

Yeah…on the 262 it adjusted itself for the speed and acceleration, so…it was a Revi too, for all aircraft types it was the Revis…but o the 262 you saw it in the windshield…the reflection.

Did you ever have any dogfights or battles, where you didn’t think you would make it back home, or uninjured?

Oh yeah, it happened quite often, but you don’t even think of it. We…we always uh…in the, the home defence we were always under...under...had less than the other side.

There were lots of American fighters, Germany had lots of fuel shortages and…

I can quite remember a night in ’43 in Afrika we flew over the Junkers 52’s transport planes with fuel and ammunition…and as we came over there, I had 6 airplanes with me…6 fighter planes as escort. We came over there, and the sky looked like a swarm of bees!…P-51s, you know… and uh…uh…Spitfires. Of course we were always short. I always made it home…but not quite…

Did the transport planes make it?


…Did you ever, just for fun, did you ever fly your plane without permission?

Oh yeah…we had also, uh…aerobatic planes, you know, little biplanes, and we went up and cut loose and just have yourself fun. We had those cloud, those… pillow clouds, and we’d fly around them. Looked like Blanket against the wall, you know.

What were your favourite memories?

I…I don’t know…I…one is I didn’t shoot this guy down… this guy down this B-17…Charlie Brown, I let him get away…I was talking yesterday with him. He might come here to our airshow. They want to make a film down there, I don’t want to. I just want to have my quiet peace, you know…that’s all.

Now…I’ve read the story…(Franz’s cat walks over, meows). If you downed one more plane, you could be nominated for a Knights Cross. It was pretty much illegal not to shoot an enemy aircraft down was it not?

Yeah, more or less. I didn’t do my job, I should have shot him down. If I wouldn’t have not seen a person I would have shot him down. I came from a…I was flying above, and uh...I figured out how to finish him off…I’d say I’d do it the normal way from the rear. And I came from the rear…and I was waited…waiting and gave the tail gunner a chance to lift the guns…the guns were hanging down, you know. And he never lifted the guns. And I came closer and closer…and at about 20 feet…and I saw him lying in there in his blood…so I couldn’t shoot. I flew up…next to his right side...and uh… the plane was bad, you know…much damage. I was surprised it flew even…I tried to get him to land…in Switzerland…because of the damage, I never saw so much… next to him, I flew for many minutes…until he got to the sea…and then I flew home…

Why did you stay with him for so long?

…Because I didn’t want anyone else to get him…


Yeah…and it took him forty years to find me. In out Jagr magazine…we have this uh…this pilot magazine…(Franz pulls out a copy of a pilots magazine). He had an ad and…as looking for the pilot who let him go…now we meet every year. Charlie and I meet every year now. Right now I cannot fly I have an asthma you know…so I am not allowed to get insurance…because of the stupid air and air-conditioning in the airplane...it’s dangerous… you know…not too long ago a woman died in an airplane because of it.

So, when you came back from the B-17, were you scared at all, that someone might find out that you didn’t -

- I didn’t tell anybody. No definitely not… I couldn’t tell anyone…I couldn’t…I’d be court-martialled. I shot, on the same day I shot two B –17’s down, you know.
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Old 08-11-2010, 03:38 PM
Lost Apiarist Lost Apiarist is offline
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Was it was it easy to keep formation in the group?

Oh yeah…yeah, you get used to it.

The armour glass was first on the outside of the aircraft, and then they moved it to the inside for the G model. Is that correct?


It was about 2-3 inches thick…even at that thickness, were there times when it didn’t help?

My windshield saved me…I have a hole…from the tail gunner of a B-17...(Franz points to a dent in his head). Through the thick glass in the windshield.

It went right through the windshield?

Yes, it had exact enough power to stick.

When you bailed out, you’d just pull the lever…did you ever have any problems getting out?

Yeah, on the right hand, you had a lever on there…as soon as you pull the lever…the air took off, uh…took the canopy away…

Did it ever get stuck?

No…- oh yeah, once…it was shot in there once by a bullet, it was sitting in there so I couldn’t get it…but you get strong!

Did you choose the camouflage yourself…your own emblem?

Oh yeah, you could put your girlfriends name on…like this one here…that’s my first wife’s name on here (points to a picture of a G-6). But, uh…sometimes you’d change the name so often (Franz smiles)…you’d go to a new airport and have a new girlfriend…and then you would have to put on a new one…

Where did you meet your first wife?

Yeah, I met her…the last time I saw her was 14 years ago. And I knew her parents very well. And I had a girlfriend at that time…and she was coming over…and I was seeing her parents…and then I was there in Afrika, and it was under pressure again…when we were arriving (Canada) I chose, you know…asked her to come over here…she was then twenty-five years old, twenty-four…and we were up in the Queen Charlotte Islands, and we were there for 5 ½ years...And we loved EVERY minute if it. After a year she was so home sick…so then, “you go home”…because everybody begged that she wouldn’t come back (Canada), you know…but after 8 weeks she was back again. And we remained for 47 years.

Wow…all these pictures that are in here, do you paint these?

No, nothing. Somebody else did them for me. This one of a 262, was an artist from the air force in Port, ah…in Portland. This one here, and the top one. He is from Kamloops. The other one is a famous painting…the one in the middle there…is worth about $2000.00 now…signed by Galland.

You have a beautiful room here…there just so much history here.

…There is a picture here…of General Galland in this room here…the little one. Galland was…one of my best friends I ever had. Oh yeah…he came over here, 4 times he was here. I went hunting with him and he got a lot of the moose. In Germany there is no moose, you know. And he shot a good one…a big one!! We went up to the North in a cabin there…and we went and flew around in a Beaver and showed us where…and he shot a REAL big one! He was happy with it.

(Cat jumps on my leg)

Oh get down!

(Franz was talking to the cat by the way J) Do you want me to put her down?

Yeah just on the floor there…

You weren’t in the 262 for very long were you? How may missions?

I had the 262 for over half a year…you know they build ‘em… one down in America.

Yeah! They flew one few months ago!

They got it up…I was there. If the pilot would have done what I told him…he wouldn’t have grounded it...

They wrecked the landing gear didn’t they?

Yeah, the undercarriage collapsed…

What did he do wrong?

What we always did…when we came in for a landing, and we were high yet, we sideslipped so the undercarriage would really lock.

And he didn’t?

It was common that it did that, you know…automatically. We had the same problem. Thing is, if we didn’t get the wheels even, you know, because the airplane exploded right there. Because on the front there was a little gas engine on each side, you know… and the gas tank there, and as soon as it hit the ground…something happened to set the tank off.

The engines over heat a lot?

Yeah, you had to be careful because, don’t forget the engine was a 28 hr. engine…if you made 20 hours you were a hero, you know.

The whole engine was replaced after?

Yeah, replaced…and very fast. But…we were under- powered too…they now in the US had 50% more horsepower then we did, you know…and it’s a 10,000 hr. engine. That’s the problem piloting it… I’ll have to phone ‘em….

I know they were finishing a 2-seater…

Yeah, that was a 2-seater…the second one is a…for the Messerschmitt Foundation…and it’s almost finished. They built 5 of them.

I think one is going to Arizona…

Yeah, some uh…judge bought it.

Very expensive…

…Two million dollars.

So when you rocked the plane side to side to lock the landing gear, did you have to do that for any other plane?

No, no…only on the 262.

It had 4 cannons in the front…

Yeah…four, three centimetre cannons…all in the front there…

How was that?

We would, uh…start normally shoot head on with the 262…but after, we didn’t do it. Well, you’d shoot the wing off a B-17…just like nothing.

I was reading that pilots specifically had a fairly large camaraderie and respect for each other…even against an enemy. Was reading an article on the Finnish Ace “Illu" Juutilanen, and whenever he could, he would sometime fly over the aircraft he shot down to look to make sure the pilot was okay.

In combat you count them…like when I shot a B-17 down…and I…you had a tendency of counting the parachutes, you know…how many parachutes came out, you know…or…when she… she exploded…you felt sorry, you know…same when if you shot a fighter down…and…and most of the time they…could jump…unless you killed him

(There was pause from both of us at this point. It felt like it lasted a couple of minutes). Did you normally shoot a specific area of the plane, like the wing root?

You’d shoot anywhere you can, because you’re position was not always good. You didn’t just shoot at the wing…you shot everything.

With all these tail gunners shooting at you, were you mainly diving, then coming back around, or would you go from behind?

That was…you can’t really say that…because you’d do it all automatically. In the first place you had to be a good airplane pilot…Most of the time we don’t remember what we did…

Did you choose the camouflage yourself…your own emblem?

Oh yeah, you could put your girlfriends name on…like this one here…that’s my first wife’s name on here (points to a picture of a G-6). But, uh…sometimes you’d change the name so often (Franz smiles)…you’d go to a new airport and have a new girlfriend…and then you would have to put on a new one…

Where did you meet your first wife?

Yeah, I met her…the last time I saw her was 14 years ago. And I knew her parents very well. And I had a girlfriend at that time…and she was coming over…and I was seeing her parents…and then I was there in Afrika, and it was under pressure again…when we were arriving (Canada) I chose, you know…asked her to come over here…she was then twenty-five years old, twenty-four…and we were up in the Queen Charlotte Islands, and we were there for 5 ½ years...And we loved EVERY minute if it. After a year she was so home sick…so then, “you go home”…because everybody begged that she wouldn’t come back (Canada), you know…but after 8 weeks she was back again. And we remained for 47 years.

Wow…all these pictures that are in here, do you paint these?

No, nothing. Somebody else did them for me. This one of a 262, was an artist from the air force in Port, ah…in Portland. This one here, and the top one. He is from Kamloops. The other one is a famous painting…the one in the middle there…is worth about $2000.00 now…signed by Galland.

You have a beautiful room here…there just so much history here.

…There is a picture here…of General Galland in this room here…the little one. Galland was…one of my best friends I ever had. Oh yeah…he came over here, 4 times he was here. I went hunting with him and he got a lot of the moose. In Germany there is no moose, you know. And he shot a good one…a big one!! We went up to the North in a cabin there…and we went and flew around in a Beaver and showed us where…and he shot a REAL big one! He was happy with it.

I was reading that pilots specifically had a fairly large camaraderie and respect for each other…even against an enemy. Was reading an article on the Finnish Ace “Illu" Juutilanen, and whenever he could, he would sometime fly over the aircraft he shot down to look to make sure the pilot was okay.

In combat you count them…like when I shot a B-17 down…and I…you had a tendency of counting the parachutes, you know…how many parachutes came out, you know…or…when she… she exploded…you felt sorry, you know…same when if you shot a fighter down…and…and most of the time they…could jump…unless you killed him

(There was pause from both of us at this point. It felt like it lasted a couple of minutes). Did you normally shoot a specific area of the plane, like the wing root?

You’d shoot anywhere you can, because you’re position was not always good. You didn’t just shoot at the wing…you shot everything.

With all these tail gunners shooting at you, were you mainly diving, then coming back around, or would you go from behind?

That was…you can’t really say that…because you’d do it all automatically. In the first place you had to be a good airplane pilot…Most of the time we don’t remember what we did…

So it was all instinct?

Yeah…but...there was too much, uh… combat. You’d combat for half and hour and you’re worn out…up and down…and…

How did the oxygen regulator work when you were fighting at higher altitudes?

You didn’t do anything. You’d put the mask on, and that’s it...that’s all. Yes, you could see…from the meter, how you…when you breathe in.

I brought with me an Oxygen Regulator from a Messerschmitt, because I had some questions about it

Wow, is that German?

Yeah…it’s from a Messerschmitt. (Franz held the Oxygen Regulator and examined it for a couple of minutes).

Oh yeah…if you needed more oxygen, you’d push this button…you’d did the same thing when you uh…are out with your girlfriend…(Franz smiles)…you jump in the airplane for 5 min. and with the heavy breathing…and you’d need the oxygen...

(We share a laugh) The Messerschmitt was a very small, cramped cockpit.

Uhhh, well… we didn’t need a shoehorn to get in, but pretty close. But it was comfortable when we were sitting. Everything is right there. This one had a big uh…cabin (pointing to a pic of a 262)…was also comfortable…it was bigger, we had to get used to it…there was lots of room in there.

Did you ever have to bail out of a 262?

No...I flew home a few times with one engine, you know…but I never bailed out.

You flew home on one engine? That must have been very hard to control?

No… you can change the rudder, uh…the rudder tilt, and the airplane flew still straight, you know…no it wasn’t a problem.

Did you every use flaps only for take off and landing, or did you use them during combat as well for tighter turns?

Not in combat, no…no, never…only for take-off and landing.

How about trim?

Mmm…yeah, perhaps …well…sometimes, yeah… The 262 there was pretty hard on…on pressures… on stick pressure. The control pressure was very high…

It was a bigger control stick, no?

Yeah, yeah…a real long one.

Was that just so you had more movement?

No, you didn’t do much movement, you just had to move the stick a little bit, that’s all.

Were there any tactics that you were trained in using that you thought didn’t work?

…yeah…ahhh, I mean, it didn’t matter…I have 487 combat missions, you know…that’s a lot. You don’t know which one was which. It’s not like the Americans that make thirty missions, and then they go home. As long as you could climb in the airplane, you flew…the reason why we lost so many of the old-timers, you know…they got...worn out and had a very low chance of surviving… (Franz began browsing though the copy of Prien and Rodeike’s I brought with me) I tried to get this book, you know…where did you buy it?

Umm…this one I ordered form the US.

Yeah, it’s a nice book

…It’s called “The Pictorial History of the Me109 F-K series. I got it only about 1 month ago, and it’s very, very good.

(Franz looks through the pictures) Yeah, it’s a German translation…it’s very good…I have some 109 books, you know…(Franz pulls out a few smaller 109 books he has on his massive bookcase)

There’s actually 2 pictures of your plane in this one. (I point out the 2 pics on pg. 128. Franz continues to study the photos). Did you ever have to belly land?

11 times I had to…

In the handbook/flight manual, it says to never release the landing gear…why is that?

You somersault…if there were fairly fair sized fields, you know…then it was never a problem…especially as the glider planes I flew…they were all the same…it was a little faster…

How many planes did you go through?

About 18 maybe...

You said you flew the K-4?

Yeah…I didn’t like it very much because the tail-wheel was retractable, and most of the time I couldn’t get it out anymore… then…you know, we would just not use it…

Did you find the tail wheel caused a lot of problems when it was down though, with wind resistance?

Oh yeah…The first, uh…262’ s we had, had a tail wheel…and when they took off, after you hit a certain speed… shot on the breaks a little bit, and the tail came up, you know.

Do you mind if I take some pictures of your place here? (Of course is where my digital camera decides to mess up on me. Luckily I had a regular camera in the car, but only enough for 4 pictures I later realized).

No, go ahead…

How did you get this, this panel here?

I had it given to me…by Galland…

What do you do in your spare time now?

Now? Oh, I have no spare time…right now I built my bench in my shop out there…I was given a big model of the Go229, I don’t know which one, but you know this airplane? (Franz shows me a picture of the Go229 from one of his many aircraft books) This…omni wing. I flew it only as a glider plane…and one of my pilots, he was testing it…and he killed himself…he was an old fighter pilot too, and he flew all those wingless planes of this sort…


…What was left over from this airplane the American’s took with them. At the end of the war there was…there just building a few yet, and…the Americans took them with them…the B-2 was built after this one here…There’s a new one coming out now, a space thing…the Lufthansa designed one…and ah, the Lufthansa…built and designed this airplane which is 7 days around the world with one gas…I met this girl who was flying it…
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Old 08-11-2010, 06:53 PM
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bobbysocks bobbysocks is offline
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a cool story of a b 17 crash ..

On the morning of November 15, 1944 a B-17G bomber (AAF Serial Number 42-9772, nicknamed ‘NONE’ of the 301st bomb group, 352nd squadron) crashed over the Austrian Alps. The aircraft and crew of 10 American airmen were returning to Lucera, Italy, following a successful bombing mission of Linz Tank Works, Austria.

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